Bathing Fun With Side Effects

Especially on hot summer days, most dogs love to jump into the cool water. However, bathing can have a painful side effect: the water cane.

When a dog suffers from a “water rod,” the base of the tail often sticks out horizontally from the body, while the rest hangs limply in a “mutton tail” (another name for the condition). Sometimes the entire tail dangles. It looks strange and hurts – so much that affected dogs often only sit down in a relieving posture, with their pelvis tilted, no longer wag their tails, are generally reluctant to move, and are only hesitant to defecate and urinate. When touched, they react evasively to aggressively. The disease typically affects larger working dogs such as retrievers, pointers, or setters.

What exactly happens in the body of the dogs has not yet been conclusively clarified. “Research indicates that the cause of the disease is muscle damage that heals over time,” says Carys Pugh of Edinburgh University in Scotland. As part of the British “Dogslife Project”, the scientist examined possible disease triggers in Labrador Retrievers from 2010 to 2015.

So far, scientists have assumed that the water cane develops exclusively after swimming. A thesis that Pugh and her colleagues were able to refute: Although swimming was confirmed as a risk factor, a quarter of the dogs included in the study were not in the water at all before the disease broke out.

Cold Favors Syndrome

What was striking, however, was that dogs in the north of the country seemed to be more susceptible than in the south. The veterinarians suspect that this phenomenon can be explained by the lower temperatures in the north. After all, the syndrome is also referred to as “cold tail” in English. “From a Swiss point of view, I would be very interested in whether dogs kept at higher altitudes are also more susceptible to the disease,” says Pugh, who would also like to investigate possible genetic risk factors in more detail in the future. The study showed that sick Labrador Retrievers were more likely to be related to each other than non-diseased conspecifics. One day, the scientists hope, it might even be possible to prevent the painful disease through targeted breeding.

Until then, you can prevent it by not physically overstraining your dog on land or in the water. In the case of overzealous candidates, this can sometimes mean that you have to order them a forced break. After swimming, especially in wet and cold weather, the fur should be dried carefully and the dog should warm up as quickly as possible.

If it does happen, you should protect the patient. Heat, for example, red light or warm packs at the base of the tail, relieves the pain. In most cases, the water rod will disappear on its own within a few days to two weeks, but a visit to the veterinarian is still advisable. He can rule out other possible causes for the abnormal tail position and support the healing process with anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, and possibly also physiotherapy.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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